Culture

Recent posts

Intersections Of Folklore And Sex: My Mentor, Alan Dundes

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Longtime MSP readers will know that I’ve written a lot on the connections between folklore and sex, sexuality, and gender, with topics including vaccines and public health, rites of passage, sexual slang, family meal practices, storytelling and sexual health, urban legends about sex, Little Red Riding Hood and sex, breasts in the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, and how the very idea of folklore connects to sex. Clearly, folklore and sex connect in a lot of ways. However, I didn’t reach this conclusion on my own: I have my mentor, Alan Dundes, to thank for it. Professor Dundes was one of the best-known scholars in the field of folklore, and he was my teacher and mentor while I did my undergraduate training at UC Berkeley. Sadly, he passed away in 2005, leaving those of us lucky enough to have studied with him to forge ahead in the field. Continue Reading →

Learn To Love Your Body At A Korean Spa

This week, while I was visiting my family in Los Angeles, some of the female family members took a trip to a Korean spa. One of my relatives had done it before, and spoke glowingly of the experience. She warned us to prepare for a bit of culture shock (we’re Jewish-American, not Korean), but it was hard to prepare for the actual experience. I’ve written in the past about nudity in Estonian saunas, and how I acted like an atypical American by being totally okay in that context. The Korean spa experience was similar and different in certain ways. Continue Reading →

Henna As Celebration Of Identity

The ethnographic film Painted Bride follows a Pakistani henna artist in New York as she practices her art – temporary plant-based body painting – in the context of fellow immigrants’ wedding celebrations. Check out the video when you get a chance; it’s vibrant as well as informative! And see this older post by me for information on women’s dress in a similar cultural context (India). Continue Reading →

Folklore, Celebrations, And Rites Of Passage

I’ve written about the intersections of folklore and sexuality in the past. Now, with the upcoming holiday season, I’d like to focus on two aspects of folklore – celebrations and rites of passage – that are both relevant and interesting to discuss, especially in light of gender and sexuality. If we define folklore as expressive culture, then most holiday celebrations are informed by and can be categorized as folklore. Whether the holidays or festivals celebrated today are sacred or secular or some mix of both, when people gather in groups they display important aspects of their identities. To be sure, holidays in America are also influenced by pop culture and the mass media, not to mention capitalism and commercialism. Continue Reading →

MSP interviews Jason Ball, Activist and Gay Football Player

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Australians will often tell overseas visitors that Aussie Rules Football, or simply ‘footy,’ is like a religion. It’s rare to find an Aussie who doesn’t passionately support an AFL (Australian Football League) team and team rivalries are deeply entrenched in family and footy culture alike. As with most sports, the professional teams are all male and reflect and reinforce traditional male gender roles. When I read that an Aussie Rules Football player – Jason Ball – had come out publicly as gay (the first ever to do so), I was thrilled to see how it would affect change in this traditional institution. Not only has he come out, he’s also become a passionate spokesperson for eliminating homophobia in the AFL. Continue Reading →

Disclosing Relationship Status In The Classroom

I wonder, sometimes, whether my relationship status matters to my students. Right now, I’m teaching an introduction to folklore course, so I’m not a straight-up sex educator or researcher, though I do frequently bring gendered topics into the classroom. Still, Dr. Debby’s post on how being considered conventionally attractive influences her pull as a sex educator/researcher resonates for me. I know that dressing smartly in the classroom helps to hold students’ attention. I take pleasure in fashion to a degree, and I tend not to subscribe to the belief that beauty and brains cannot coexist. Continue Reading →

Wedding Season Reflection Part 1: The Power Vested in Us

This summer was an epic one for weddings. Many people I knew tied the knot this summer (including two of my favorite sex bloggers. Congrats, Jeana and Emily!). My partner and I attended six from May to September, and I thought I would share a few stories and lessons in the next few blog posts that I learned from the half-dozen ceremonies, receptions, and the one crazy carnival I experienced. Today I would like to contribute a story from one of my favorite wedding moments thus far. Continue Reading →

Vaginal Tightening Gel Makes You Feel “Like A Virgin”?

It seems that almost every day, I come across a new product that somehow offends me on several levels. “18 Again,” a vaginal tightening gel produced by an Indian pharmaceutical company Ultratech, is no exception. According to the article from the NY Daily News, Ultratech’s goal is to “empower the new age woman.” Now, while I understand that it could be considered empowering to take the status of your vagina into your own hands (literally), the fact that the company is essentially telling millions of women that they are only worthwhile if they have so-called virginal vaginas is far from empowering. Continue Reading →

Geek Culture, Misogyny, And Harassment

Geek culture seems to have a love-hate relationship with women. On the one hand, where would so many classic science fiction and fantasy tales be without a princess to rescue? But on the other hand, as soon as women try to involve themselves in geek culture, asserting their right to be there as fans of the multifaceted culture, there’s a lot of pushback from the men. A LOT. In Defense of Lady Geeks argues that while women are “appreciated for our decorative qualities, we certainly shouldn’t expect to be welcomed beyond that as active participants. Continue Reading →

Why Good Sex Ed Is Important: A Reminder

Not surprisingly, disclosing that I’m a sex educator often elicits questions, wide-eyed stares, and/or giggles. Recently, after telling someone what I do for a living, I was asked, “what do you think about abstinence-only education?” I replied (with a smile), “That’s like asking an evolutionary biologist what they think of Intelligent Design” and went on to discuss a few of the problems with America’s notorious (lack of) sex ed. While it’s not news to anyone who works in sexual health that comprehensive sex ed is a good thing and that abstinence-only sex ed doesn’t work, sometime it’s nice to be reminded why the work we do is important. Recently, I came across an article on Twitter (thanks @jezRSH) that describes some of the more noteworthy and atrocious “lessons” in New York State’s sex ed curricula that have been uncovered in a recent study by the New York Civil Liberties Union. Continue Reading →